What genealogy does -- Critical historiography: politics, philosophy & problematization -- Three uses of genealogy: subversion, vindication & problematization -- What problematization is: contingency, complexity & critique -- What problematization does: aims, sources & implications -- Foucault's problematization of modernity: the reciprocal incompatibility of discipline and liberation -- Foucault's reconstruction of modern moralities: an ethics of self-transformation -- Problematization plus reconstruction: genealogy, pragmatism & critical theory.
Abstract This article offers the outlines of a historically-informed conception of critical inquiry herein named genealogical pragmatism. This conception of critical inquiry combines the genealogical emphasis on problematization featured in Michel Foucault's work with the pragmatist emphasis on reconstruction featured in John Dewey's work. The two forms of critical inquiry featured by these thinkers are not opposed, as is too commonly supposed. Genealogical problematization and pragmatist reconstruction fit together for reason of their mutual emphasis on the importance of history for (...) philosophy. In so fitting together they repair crucial deficits in both traditions as they currently stand on their own (namely, genealogy's normative deficit and pragmatism's excessive instrumentalism). The resulting conception of critical inquiry as simultaneously problematizational and reconstructive is offered as a first step toward a crucial philosophical task we face today: articulating normativity without foundations. (shrink)
Abstract: Pragmatism involves simultaneous commitments to modes of inquiry that are philosophical and historical. This article begins by demonstrating this point as it is evidenced in the historicist pragmatisms of William James and John Dewey. Having shown that pragmatism focuses philosophical attention on concrete historical processes, the article turns to a discussion of the specific historiographical commitments consistent with this focus. This focus here is on a pragmatist version of historical inquiry in terms of the central historiographical categories of the (...) object of historical inquiry and mode of historical periodization. After describing the basic historiographical consequences of pragmatism's historicism, the article moves to a discussion of the philosophical results of this historicism. The focus here is on the role that historical inquiry can play in the general philosophical perspective of pragmatism as well as on some recent texts that exemplify the dual pragmatist commitment to philosophy and history. (shrink)
I offer a major reassessment of Foucault’s philosophico-historical account of the basic problems of modernity. I revise our understanding of Foucault by countering the influential misinterpretations proffered by his European interlocutors such as Habermas and Derrida. Central to Foucault’s account of modernity was his work on two crucial concept pairs: freedom/power and reason/madness. I argue against the view of Habermas and Derrida that Foucault understood modern power and reason as straightforwardly opposed to modern freedom and madness. I show that Foucault (...) held a much more complex view of these pairs, a view encapsulated in his term ‘reciprocal incompatibility’. By revising our interpretation of Foucault’s work on modernity in this way, we open the way to much more effective deployments of his critical apparatus. (shrink)
One of the most vexing problems in contemporary liberal democratic theory and practice is the relation between ethics and economics. This article presents a way of bringing this relation into focus in the terms offered by two incredibly influential but too-often neglected twentieth-century political philosophers: John Dewey and Friedrich Hayek. I describe important points of contact between Dewey and Hayek that enable us to begin the project of reframing contemporary debates between ethical egalitarians and economic libertarians. Cautiously recognizing these commonalities (...) whilst remaining attentive to persisting differences enables us to better approach the difficult relations between morals and markets. Specifically, I argue for a Deweyan combination of fair trade and free trade motivated by taking seriously a Hayekian caution about states. The result is a democratic theory that importantly refuses to attribute too much political efficacy to the quintessential liberal distinction between public and private. (shrink)
This paper offers a rereading of Foucault's much-disputed mid-career historiographical shift to genealogy from his earlier archaeological analytic. Disputing the usual view that this shift involves an abandonment of an archaeological method that was then replaced by a genealogical method, I show that this shift is better conceived as a historiographical expansion. Foucault's work subsequent to this shift should be understood as invoking both genealogy and archaeology. The metaphor of expansion is helpful in clarifying what was involved in Foucault's historiographical (...) shift. I describe two expansions at the heart of Foucault's move. First, Foucault went from analyzing singular isolable domains of practice (such as knowledge) to analyzing the interactions between multiple domains of practice (such as power/knowledge). Second, Foucault went from an analytic which relied on a single temporal category of rupture to an analytic which invoked the relations amongst multiple temporalities, including continuity alongside discontinuity in his subsequent analyses. (shrink)
: The revival of philosophical pragmatism has generated a wealth of intramural debates between neopragmatists like Richard Rorty and contemporary scholars devoted to explicating the classical pragmatism of John Dewey and William James. Of all these internecine conflicts, the most divisive concerns the status of language and experience in pragmatist philosophy. Contemporary scholars of classical pragmatism defend experience as the heart of pragmatism while neopragmatists drop the concept of experience in favor of a thoroughly linguistic pragmatism. I argue that both (...) positions engender formidable risks. After discussing the present impasse, I describe a third version of pragmatism which involves a reconstruction of the classical pragmatist concept of experience in light of the criticisms of foundationalism crucial to the neopragmatist linguistic turn. This third version of pragmatism does justice to both Rorty and Dewey by focusing on experience as a temporal field. (shrink)
Contemporary pragmatists often describe politics as primarily an exercise in social organization. Our tendency is to see the task of political philosophy in terms of the conceptualization of social, governmental, and legal institutions that will protect and deepen the core liberal values of freedom and equality. John Patrick Diggins could thus confidently and truly assert in 1994 that pragmatism "embrace[s] society as almost redemptive . . . no other modern philosophy has so dignified the social" (Diggins 1994, 160–61), I do (...) not see this claim as untrue so much as the unfortunate residue of recent pragmatism's narrow emphasis on a social conception of a pragmatist politics. This emphasis has been at the expense of early pragmatists' skepticism toward the idea that social institutions are the tool most useful for deepening democratic freedom and equality. In articulating pragmatist politics within frameworks with decided biases for the social over the individual, recent pragmatists have obscured a novel element central to early pragmatists William James and John Dewey: the philosophical and political idea of a personal action that is reducible to neither individual power nor social relations. -/- Recent pragmatism's social bias is perhaps clearest in the case of Richard Rorty. In his early work, Rorty defended a conception of knowledge as a social product, describing his position as "explaining rationality and epistemic authority by reference to what society lets us say" (Rorty 1979, 174). In Rorty's later work on politics, this social conception of epistemic practice is rephrased in terms of a social authority of consensus. In the first instance, political authority rests on the weight of social consensus: "nothing save freely achieved consensus among human beings has any authority at all" (Rorty 1998, 18). Further, democratic politics is mostly a matter of finding ways of broadening consensus, of bringing more persons into the authoritative social fold: the resolution of disagreement always requires "widen[ing] the range of consensus about how things are" (35). Rorty thus often slides toward a conception of democratic politics as purely social and consensual—individual dissensus is accommodated in private rather than explicitly invited or cherished as a valuable aspect of democratic political culture. -/- Rorty is not alone in voicing this position—his work skillfully condenses themes entrenched over the last twenty-five years of pragmatist political theory (these themes are equally prevalent in non-pragmatist liberal and socialist theory). According to Richard Bernstein, the value of pragmatism is that it articulates social insights such as the following: "the institutionalization of democratic forms of life require[s] a new understanding of the genesis and development of practical sociality" (Bernstein 1991, 48). Cornel West, who describes his envisioned "Emersonian culture of creative democracy" as one "in which human participation is encouraged and for which human personalities are enhanced," tends to view participation and personality in decidedly social terms. According to West's vision of Emersonian culture, "social experimentation is the basic norm" because "once one gives up on the search for foundations and the quest for certainty, human inquiry into truth and knowledge shifts to the social and communal circumstances under which persons can communicate and cooperate in the process of acquiring knowledge" (West 1989, 213). -/- Pragmatists should not accept these arguments. Once we abandon the quest for certainty, the balance of interest does not necessarily tip toward the social. My argument is that our interest should shift, rather, to the synergy between individual and social forces that alone cultivates democratic practice. Only in this way can we hold in vision a conception of democratic practice that both originates and terminates in human personality. (shrink)